By Jacton Akoyo
Kenya’s Deputy President Dr William Ruto said Tuesday that the Government is committed to supporting research through increased funding.
Speaking during the third Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) International Conference and the 4th AfriGEO Symposium, Dr Ruto noted that the move would boost the quality of information and ultimately inform proper planning.
He said that through applications developed at RCMRD, in collaboration with partners, “we can now monitor crop conditions from planting to harvesting, and thus help the country plan well on food security for its people.”
Through geo-spatial technologies, I challenge you to further seek solutions to the problem of food distribution and market systems in the region, to not only foster efficient trade but also ensure that a Kenyan should not die of hunger when there is a surplus in a neighbouring country or even county.
“I am pleasantly informed that our neighbours in Rwanda have embraced drone technology to provide essential health services such as the delivery of medical supplies.” Such examples, Dr Ruto said, inspire us to see that Earth observation and responsible use of space should drive our inquisitiveness to seek solutions for problems facing our communities.
“Like the late Steve Jobs would put it, as we seek answers for these issues, we should ‘stay hungry, and stay foolish’, simply, keep learning.” He said a lack of right information and a supply of stale information continued to haunt the turnaround of Africa.
“Proper planning is a function of quality and accurate information; information that is well researched, backed by knowledge and evidence,” Dr Ruto told the participants. He challenged scientists to “step in with the right prescriptions” that would propel this continent forward.
“We should not lose time. Neither should we make wrong decisions,” Dr Ruto insisted, adding that scientists need to partner with the government and public institutions in producing accurate data that can guide the development of Africa. “I am happy to note that the Government of Kenya has fully embraced digital data and information to help the country fast track achievement of the BIG4 Agenda spearheaded by His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta.”
He urged conference participants to use innovations in geo-spatial technologies to project and plan for the needs of our people, say, 30 years from today. Following the national and sub-national development agendas in your respective countries, like the Vision 2030 and the BIG4 Agenda in Kenya, what can we do differently to make life better for future generations? “For example, Nairobi today is home to about 3 million people, how will water supply look like in 2050, when Nairobi is projected to host over 10 million people? What can we do to improve agricultural production and make food markets more efficient today and in 2050?”
How can we use Earth observation and geospatial technologies to improve disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts of disasters such as the devastating Cyclone Idai, where nearly 3 million people in 3 countries were affected? All these fundamental livelihood questions and many others have a geo-location component, which makes Earth observation and spatial analysis indispensable, in our pursuit of answers.
However, I must remind you that geos-spatial technologies alone will not solve all our problems. We must also make a deliberate effort to engage with those who benefit from the very solutions we are seeking to create, and discuss those solutions with them, right from the basic units of decision making at the village level, to the apex decision making organs at the national government level.
The Kenya Government has just undertaken an elaborate registration program for all Kenyans,
and will soon commence a census exercise carefully guided by spatial data technology. Further, I believe that satellite data and GIS systems are helping us design better housing facilities for Kenyans, through improved spatial plans that contribute to the County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs). Lands Cabinet Secretary Dr Farida Karoney argued that science and innovation should be at the centre of tackling challenges facing Africa. The CS noted that technology was a crucial player in the attainment of the sustainable development goals.
“Crucially, it is these research-backed data that would drive the Big Four agenda in Kenya,” she said. I see a clear linkage between the accessibility of education for societal benefit and the information streams derived from Earth observation technologies.
The CS added that our youth are now more technology savvy and ICT literate than any other young generation in history. “Maybe some of you made intelligent choices of the routes to use to get here, facilitated by Google Maps and that tells you exactly what I mean, Geo-spatial Science and Technology is already playing a central role in our daily decisions as well national endeavours to attain development goals. I need not emphasize how Earth observation is transforming decisions in transport, agriculture, wildlife management among others.”
In addition, she said, “We must strive for improved management of our land resources with technologies that ease our field operations for data acquisition, storage, and analysis, and make it practical for us to engage in constructive dialogue with our communities in planning for land use.”
To make this paradigm shift, I wish to point out that as countries, we must focus on 3 key issues. (1) The skills in modern land surveying and geo-spatial technologies for our young people. “As a country, we can do more to ensure that the people skills in this sector are relevant to the needs of society and responsive to the problems faced by our people.”
She said operations of our institutions in application of Earth observation technologies and collaborations with the international community must always pay close attention to addressing the village to national level user community needs.